Pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong plan a new round of mass protests against the government this July. The latest conflagration between pan-democrats and Hong Kong and Chinese bureaucrats comes following conflicting statements this weekend over the role of Beijing’s liaison office and Article 22 of the Hong Kong-China Basic Law agreement.
The article itself is straightforward.
No department of the Central People’s Government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law.
If there is a need for departments of the Central Government, or for provinces, autonomous regions, or municipalities directly under the Central Government to set up offices in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, they must obtain the consent of the government of the Region and the approval of the Central People’s Government.
All offices set up in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by departments of the Central Government, or by provinces, autonomous regions, or municipalities directly under the Central Government, and the personnel of these offices shall abide by the laws of the Region.
China decided to throw their understanding of Article 22 on its ear by claiming, “a high degree of autonomy is not completely autonomy” before exerting more power on Central Government offices in the region. From China’s governmental office in Hong Kong via Google Translate:
The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council and the Hong Kong Liaison Office of the People ’s Republic of China are agencies authorized by the central government to deal with Hong Kong affairs. They are not “general departments of the central people ’s government” within the meaning of Article 22 of the Basic Law. Of course, they are entitled to represent the central government. Important issues such as the relationship between the Central Government and the Special Administrative Region, the correct implementation of the Basic Law, the normal operation of the political system and the overall interests of the society, exercise the power of supervision, and pay attention to and demonstrate a solemn attitude.
The Central Government then focused its ire on Legislative Council member Guo Rongkeng with what appears to be a threat against the entirety of Hong Kong’s semi-elected government.
Guo Rongkeng repeatedly and repeatedly maliciously “rab”, hindering the election of the chairman of the internal committee, resulting in various economic and livelihood bills cannot be considered normally, seriously affecting the interests of Hong Kong society and the public, and clearly violates the statutory law conferred on legislators by the Basic Law Duties. When the Legislative Council cannot normally perform the constitutional responsibilities entrusted by the Basic Law, the political system of the SAR cannot function normally, and the overall interests of Hong Kong citizens cannot be effectively protected. Of course, the Central Government cannot sit by and ignore it. The need to ensure the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong is also the need to safeguard the interests of the citizens.
Hong Kong’s response to the threat ended up messy. The first statement published Saturday night quietly reminded China that Article 22 covered the Liaison Office. A few hours later, Hong Kong backtracked and declared Liaison Office could do what it wanted.
The reaction to Hong Kong’s hypocrisy fell on ideological lines. Democracy advocates criticized Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s decision and accused her of calling “a stag a horse.” Pro-Beijing lawmakers shrugged at Lam’s contradictory statements with one intimating to RTHK the government better talk with so-called constitutional experts before popping off.
Yet, Hong Kong’s first statement on Article 22 and the Liaison Office is correct based on reporting by Hong Kong Free Press. Documents from 2007 reveal the Central Government set up the office under Article 22. Hong Kong University law professor Johannes Chan made a similar note to RTHK and worried the “one country, two systems” agreement is further in doubt. The ‘joys’ of politics, especially with an authoritarian regime seeking to destroy dissent wherever possible and a local government willing to acquiesce.
Demonstrators vow to take the streets July 1st to remember the 1997 handover from Great Britain to China, mass arrests and pandemic be damned!